The Effects of Couple Satisfaction on Family Conflict and on Adolescents' Future Antisocial Behavior
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The functioning of the family system has a substantial impact on youth social development and behavioral adjustment. Although the impact of parenting, specifically coercive parenting, and the influence of deviant peers are well-documented risk factors for child maladaptive behavior, less understood is how parents' satisfaction in their couple relationship influences family functioning and child outcomes. This study examined negative family conflict as an underlying mediating variable in the association between couple satisfaction and adolescents' future outcomes in a sample of 241 couples and their adolescent children (127 males and 114 females). Adolescents were an average age of 16 to 17 at the initial time point and they participated in follow-up one year later. Structural equation modeling on longitudinal data showed that the model fit the data well and that higher couple satisfaction was related to better future outcomes (defined as lower levels of future antisocial behavior). Higher couple satisfaction was also associated with lower levels of negative family conflict which predicted lower levels of adolescent future antisocial behavior (ASB). For all adolescents, findings also demonstrated that negative family conflict completely mediated the relationship between couple relationship satisfaction and adolescents' future ASB. Sex differences were found in these relationships when males and females were examined separately, especially related to couple dissatisfaction, which was directly predictive of male future ASB but not female future ASB. This study supports existing research demonstrating that adolescents in families with poor couple satisfaction are more likely to engage in ASB than those whose parents reported higher levels of couple satisfaction. Furthermore, these findings highlight the mediating role of negative family conflict in the association between couple satisfaction and adolescents' future ASB. Findings from this study have implications for couples and family interventions. For instance, clinical intervention focused on enhancing couple satisfaction and reducing negative family conflict may promote better outcomes for children.